All About Air Plants

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Have you adopted one of these spiky Tillandsias (air plants) just to have it turn brown and crunchy?All About Air Plants

All About Air Plants

It?s not your fault, air plants just require a different kind of care than we are used to with our other houseplants. Once you know what to do, you will find that air plants are one of the easiest and most versatile indoor plants to take care of. Treat them right and they might even bloom!

Okay, so it?s time you are armed with the right information to end the abuse of air plants and treat them with love and respect. Read on air plant lovers, for this is All About Air Plants.

What?s in a Name?

The term ?air plants? is the common name for Tillandsias, a type of Bromeliad, because they don?t need to be planted in soil. Yup, no soil! In the wild, Tillandsias colonize objects such as rocks and trees by clinging onto them with their roots. Air plants are epiphytic, meaning they absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves, while the roots are used primarily to provide support for the plant.

 

This is good news for crafty gardeners! It means that you can place an air plant in just about any spot in your house. and are some great ideas for air plants displays, and there are many more. Just check out this Pinterest board:

 

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Over 500 species of Tillandsia grow in a broad variety of habitats in the USA (southern part) to Central and South America. Some Tillandsia varieties such as Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usenoides) can be invasive, taking over phone lines and climbing buildings.

 

Air Plant Care Instructions

Air plants are easy to care for, as long as you are sure to give them the basics.

Air

Yup, as the name indicates, you must provide lots of air for your air plant. Do you need to give it a fan or blow dryer? No. Just make sure that it?s not sealed up in a closed container so that fresh air can circulate freely around the plant.

Air plants in sealed vs. unsealed terrariums. Tillandsia need air circulation.

Water

Since they don?t grow in soil, air plants need to absorb moisture through their leaves. I have heard many, many times that garden centers have recommended spritzing them a few times a week. I find that this is just not enough water and that it is often the reason why air plants die. I never found that misting was very helpful or consistent.

Personally, I give air plants an hour-long bath to meet their water requirements. In the summer they need a weekly soak, whereas in the winter it?s once every 3 weeks or so. I like to use rainwater whenever I can, and this is pretty simple given I live in a rainforest! You can use tap water as well, just leave it out for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate or use filtered water.

To give your air plant a bath, simply remove it from the shell, bowl, or whatever else you have it displayed in and set it in a bowl that is large enough to submerge the plant in water. After an hour, take the plant out and give it a good shake upside down to remove any water pooling inside the leaves. Put the plant back in place and just enjoy its beauty for another 1-3 weeks before it needs another bath.

For even more shipping returns detailed instructions on watering air plants, see this post:

Light

Air plants prefer bright, indirect light. A sunny window may be too much light and a dark room will be too little. Find a bright spot in your home where the sun doesn?t directly beam right at the plant, which can burn it.

How to Get Your Air Plant to Bloom

Did you know that air plants flower? If you want to see your air plant bloom, then you may have your work cut out for you! These are so many different varieties that it is hard to generalize instructions that can work for them all as different species bloom at different times and flowering can also depend on care and environment.

an air plant in bloom

It?s best to look at the life cycle of an air plant to determine blooming. Tillandsia flower at maturity and will only bloom once in their life. The mother plant will start producing baby plants (or pups) when they are nearing maturity. She will then die off, but each pup will grow into a mature plant and flower, although this could take years. Blooms can last from days to months, depending on the species.

Tillandsia in bloom

If you really want to see a Tillandsia bloom, look for plants that are starting to grow pups when you buy them. Follow the care procedures closely and add a bit of orchid / Bromeliad fertilizer once a month in the bath to help move along the life cycle.

When the blooms start to show, keep them out of the water. You can still give your air plant a bath, but the delicate petals won?t last submerged in water.

Reviving a Sick Air Plant

Looking for tips on planting air plants?

Check out 

Now go out and adopt another air plant. You won?t be sorry!

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Air plants are so versatile. Without the need for soil, you can display them in so many different ways. I?ve seen air plant wreaths before, but it bothered me that the plants were glued on. How can that be healthy for the plants? It isn?t. So I have created this pretty living wreath with a smart solution to keep the plants alive and healthy while displaying them on a wreath.

Last year I bought a little air plant wreath from my local garden center. It had a green and red bow for the holidays and some green moss hot glued onto it. The air plants were attached by zip ties that also had a generous helping of hot glue to keep the ties and the plants attached to the wreath. This is all fine and good for a temporary display, but as I mention in my article , gluing air plants is not a good way to keep them healthy for long.Air Plant Wreath BEFORE

This little wreath cost me almost $40 and two of the plants died within the first two months. Not to brag, but I?m kind of a superstar with air plants. I have had many of mine for years and . But the ones glued to a wreath were just too difficult to water.

The best way to water air plants is to give them an . The only way to do that with the wreath was to soak the entire thing and that made the moss a mess. They keep these things alive in the garden centers by misting entire displays regularly and keeping them in a fairly humid environment. But the inside of your average home is not nearly as humid as a greenhouse (especially if you have forced air heating).

Dying Air Plant on Wreath

Despite my best efforts, two of the wreath?s air plants didn?t make it past the first few month. The third has been toughing it out for over a year and as you can see it is on its last legs. It?s spindly, browning, wrinkly, and altogether sickly-looking. I figured it was about time to rescue my sick air plant and come up with a solution so that air plants could stay alive and healthy while still looking gorgeous in this design.Sick Air Plant

Here is the secret to this design: the plants will be attached by loops of wire. This way when the air plants need a bath they can simply be taken off the wreath and put back up again afterwards!

Materials

  • Grapevine wreath
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Pinecones, Seed pods,bracket mushrooms, and other dried plants
  • Reindeer moss
  • Zip ties
  • Hot glue gun and glue

Make it!

The first step is to revive the existing air plant which you can see how to do .Pruning Air Plant

Next, think about where you?re going to attach your other air plants. I laid out my design based on different varieties, shapes, and sizes of air plants.

Use wire cutters to cut a 6-inch length of wire. Use the needle nose pliers to twist the wires into a curlicue on one end, leaving the other end straight. Attach the wire to the grapevine wreath by poking the straight end into the branches and using the needle nose pliers to twist and bend the end to hold the loop in place. Create different shapes and sizes of loops to hold different shapes and sizes of air plants.Wreath Wire Hanger

Now decorate your wreath. Collect dried seed pods, mushrooms, flower heads, and other things that will add to the natural look of your wreath. Lay out the design and attach the elements using zip ties and a hot glue gun, a method that is not that different from how the air plants were attached to my original wreath! But, of course, the difference is that these elements are not living and will not change, grow, and struggle beneath the glue and zip ties.How to Attach an Air Plant to a Wreath

Once the decorative elements have been added, cover the glue, stems, or other things that you want to hide with reindeer moss.

Now add the plants! Attach the air plants to the wire loops gently. You want to make sure the plants are held in place firmly but that they aren?t pinched or pierced by the wire. Once you have your plants set in place, it?s easy to take the plants off to soak them in a bath, and then add them back to the design when you?re finished.

Now my new air plant wreath looks beautiful and will last for many, many years. Oh, and it cost a whole lot less than $40 to make!

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How to build a Doggy John, or a flushable dog run for our . This clever dog run has made our yard even more pet friendly, while keeping the lawn green and healthy. You can make your own flushable doggy john easily. Your dogs and your lawn will thank you!

Build a DIY Flushable Dog Run and Save Your Lawn!

If you want to protect your lawn from doggie business so it stays pretty and usable, it is incredibly easy to teach the mutts to use a dog run. With some training consistency, lots of liver treats, and your dog?s desire to keep you happy, you can say goodbye to dog poop for ever (on you lawn at least).

The Culprits

How to Build a Flushable Dog Run

First let me introduce the team of  terrors that inspired this project, Lou and Meatball. Can you guess which is which? Lou is the food-crazy English Lab and Meatball is the freakishly small Boston Terrier.

The ProblemHow to Prevent Dogs from killing lawn

 

The first problem I am trying to solve is training them NOT to do their business on the lawn. It causes me undue stress having to dodge doggy presents and repairing dead spots.
dog run
Urine contains ammonium ions (chemical related to ammonia). By training my pooches to pee in the same place over and over again, their pee saturated the soil and the ammonium quickly became concentrated. As such, the reek of the urine was overwhelming and there was no place on the property to escape from it.

Additionally, Lou and Meatball where not pleased with the odor themselves and soon refused to continue peeing at the location. I tried to flush the area with water. That provided relief for a couple of days but the water soon dried up and the ammonium was left behind, and so was the putrid stink!

The Solution

I realized I had to find a way to flush the urine out of the area, so I decided to make the little stinkers their very own flushable toilet. Luckily at that location there is a rain barrel with an overflow spout that pipes into the drain tile and off the property. Basically what I did was remove the soil, dig a trench, covered the area in thick plastic, installed a perforated pipe that tied into the exterior plumbing, covered it all up with gravel, and voila! I call it the Doggy John. Lou and Meatball use the area as trained and I flush it once every few weeks with a hose. The plastic keeps the urine from penetrating the soil and ensures that all of the water is directed to the perforated pipe so that it may be flushed away. The rest of the post shows you how to build your very own Doggy John.

Materials List

Materials

1. 4? Perforated Big-O drain pipe ? about 15 feet.
2. 4? Coupler ? used to join two pieces of Big-O drain pipe together
3. Filter cloth ? used to wrap the Big-O pipe to help keep dirt out of the drain
4. 4? to 1 ?? Reducer ? used to connect Big-O into 1 ?? plumbing pipe
5. 1 ?? T-Connector ? used to tie in the Big-O into the existing plumbing
6. 1 ?? Coupler ? used to join two pieces of 1 ?? plumbing pipe together
7. 1 ?? PVC plumbing pipe
8. PVC pipe cement ? used to glue plumbing pipes together
9. Heavy duty plastic sheet ? used to cover ground (Note: picture shows 2mm plastic. In hind-sight go with a thicker 6mm plastic sheet
10. Clean gravel ? used to cover entire Doggy John
11. Level ? used to ensure that all Big-O and piping is slopping towards the drain tile so gravity feeds the water away.
12. Shovel ? for digging the trench
13. Gloves ? you are going to want a good pair
14. Tape measure ? measuring is involved
15. Duct-tape ? used to tape the filter cloth to the Big-O
16. Hack saw ? used to cut the Big-O and PVC pipes
17. Knife ? for cutting tape, plastic sheet and filter cloth
18. Rake ? to smooth things out
19. Tool belt ? so you can carry your tools
20. Meatball ? not required for this part of the project

Step 1 ? Tie into existing plumbing

The first step is to tie into the existing plumbing. Obviously my plumbing will be different from yours. Remember that all of your piping should be graded so that it flows the water away from the area. The grade should be at least 1/2? slope for every 4 feet of pipe.

Tie Into Plumbing

Using the hack saw, cut the existing PVC pipe at both sides of the 90 degree elbow. File any rough edges on the existing pipe to ensure they are square.

File Rough Edges

Glue in the 1 ?? T-connector so that the two-pipes are reconnected and the top of the tee is pointing to where you Big-O drain will be laid. Note: When gluing, ensure that you apply glue to the female end of the T-connector (the part where the pipe fits into). Also make certain that you don?t over glue and have it pool. Work quickly as the glue sets fast.

Glue Female Connector

Glue in the 4? to 1 ?? Reducer to the 1 ?? T-connector.

Completed Pipe

Step 2 ? Dig out your trench

Now comes the fun part. Grab your shovel and dig out a trench! Starting from the 4? to 1 ?? Reducer you will want to dig a trench that is about 12? wide and as long as the Doggy John area (mine is about 15 feet). Normally when digging drainage pipes you dig down about 16?; however, in this case you only have to dig as deep as the bottom part of the 4? to 1 ?? Reducer opening. If you dig much deeper than that then water will have to fill the bottom of the trench before it is able to flow out the pipe. Remember to use the level and ensure that your trench continues to drain away from the area at a rate of at least ?? for every four feet of length.

How to Build a Dog Toilet

You can pile the soil at the side of your trench. You will want to use your rake to gently grade the surrounding ground so that it slopes into the trench. This ensures that when you flush the Doggy John with the hose the water flows to the trench and down the Big-O.

Step 3 ? Lay down plastic

Lining Dog Run with Plastic
Once your trench is dug and the surrounding ground is graded towards the trench, lay down your heavy duty 6mm plastic sheet. If a single sheet doesn?t fit then you can overlap another sheet. Just remember that when overlapping the top sheet should be the one higher up the grade (like roof shingles).
Use some duct tape to hold down your plastic sheet. You should also leave it long and wide; you will trim it at the end.

Step 4 ? Install your Big-O in the trench

Wrap Big O In Fabric
Cover the pipe with filter (landscaping) fabric. Use duct tape to hold the fabric in place. The fabric will prevent soil from clogging the holes on the pipe while still allowing water to drain through and into the pipe. Without the fabric, dirt could enter the pipe through the holes and prevent drainage.

Installing Drainage

Shovel a thin layer of clean gravel into the trench on top of the plastic sheet. Lay the Big-O pipe on top of the gravel and connect with the 4? to 1 ?? Reducer. Use the 4? Coupler if you need to connect two pieces of Big-O together. Tip: If the Big-O pipe won?t lay flat you can temporarily hold it in place with some bricks or rocks.
At the top of the Big-O pipe (the opposite side of where it ties into the plumbing) you can connect a flexible 4? elbow that sticks up above grade. This can be used as a cleanout if necessary in the future.

Cleanout

Step 5 ? Test drainage
Now test to see how well things drain. Make sure to do this BEFORE covering the Big-O pipe with gravel. Grab a hose and spray it over your pipe and plastic. Hopefully you will notice the water run down the plastic sheet towards the trench and down the Big-O pipe. This image below shows the water flowing out the pipe that will eventually be connected into the underground drain tile. SUCCESS!

Drain Test

Step 6 ? Cover it all up with gravel
Fill in the rest of the trench with more clean gravel and make sure that the Big-O pipe is fully covered. Smooth out the plastic sheet that covers the rest of the Doggy John area and lay at least a 3? thick layer of gravel to cover the area. If you have a male pooch you will want to put a peeing post in the area (something he can lift his leg on).

Dog Toilet with Pee Stone

Clean up the poop regularly and give the area a good flush once every two or three weeks and your puppies will be able to enjoy their odor-free Doggy John for many years to come.

How to Build a Dog Run

More Pet-Friendly Projects:

 

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